Whether the dogs will continue to get along is still a concern of mine, and I believe it’s a valid one. This is almost entirely due to Dobby’s age – somewhere between 12-18 months. In other words, not completely mature. It’s not uncommon for dogs, especially Terrier-type dogs, to become more dog selective as they age. This is a possibility I have to face with adopting a younger dog. However, my other option (a puppy from a breeder) was no more likely to continue to get along with Layla than Dobby was. Actually, since Layla has never liked another dog this way, I would say that the possibility of a great match was actually worse with a puppy than with Dobby. At least with Dobby, we had a solid foundation to start with. If Layla’s past behavior with foster puppies is any indication, she would absolutely hate a puppy to begin with. She would likely grow to accept the puppy and even begin playing with him on occasion, but her default would be bare tolerance. Here at least, the two dogs have a history of affiliative behavior to build from.
Whether Dobby will be happy living with us was another concern of mine. Frankly, I’m not the best home for a fearful dog. I foster other dogs. I take my dogs everywhere with me. I’m a complete clutz, and frequently trip on things, stub my toes, cut myself, fall over, and sometimes yell or swear while doing it all. My dogs don’t have the luxury of hiding in my house and yard and never leaving – they’re exposed to multiple environments through dog classes, hikes, friend’s houses, seminars, and trials.
However, I think Dobby can handle this. He has come out of his shell during his time with Layla and I. He’s still fearful, and is actually becoming more reactive as he becomes less shut down. But he’s trying. He tries so hard that my heart hurts for him sometimes. Unlike Layla, who’s completely out for #1, I feel like Dobby actually does want to please me. He desperately craves praise and is easily crushed if he feels I’m displeased with him. He’s butter-soft, but he’s also willing to try over and over again if I ask him to. This is both good and bad. It’s oh-so-easy to reward him, because even a smile has reinforcement value for him. On the flip side, I have to be careful not to allow petty disappointments or frustration to travel down the leash when things don’t go as planned, or he becomes frantically obsequious.
I’ve been surprised at how very attached I’ve become to this little dog in such a short time. His relationship with Layla has something to do with it. I will never get tired of watching the two of them play or curl up and nap together. Layla has never had a dog friend like this, and I love to see her so joyful and content. She’s like the cat who got into the cream – self-satisfied to the point of gloating. Dobby can do things to her that no other dog would get away with, and the two of them have a wonderful relationship. There are the usual hiccups of any relationship – some mild guarding, the occasional snark when play gets too rough – but for the most part, these two dogs are pals.
Not all of my relationship with this little dog comes from his ties to Layla, though. I’ve discovered that Dobby is earnest, soulful, and affectionate. He snuggles himself into an impossibly small little ball on the bed, as if afraid if he takes up too much room he’ll get in trouble. (Layla, on the other paw, takes up as much space as possible, and is not afraid to use her sharp toenails as “incentive” to push her bedmates aside if she feels she’s not getting her fair share of the space.) In the mornings, he looks at me with the softest, happiest eyes and snuggles in closer, sighing in contentment.
When we train, he tries so, so hard to figure out what I want. He’s thoughtful and careful during shaping, in total contrast to Layla’s wild gyrations. He still flinches sometimes when I move too quickly or speak too loudly, but is learning to enjoy touch. He no longer flattens to the floor or urinates in fear, and can move through doorways without crawling. He’s still terrified of new men, but has made friends with my father and a guy friend of mine and desperately wants to connect. His initial contact with new people is often done crawling on his stomach, tail tucked, but he initiates the contact in spite of his fear.
So, where to next?
I’ve decided not to have any expectations of Dobby, beyond being a good pet. I want him to be happy with Layla and I, and I want him to be well-trained enough that he is a pleasure to be around. Beyond that, it’s his call. We’ll dabble in dog sports to see what he likes – weight pulling, disc, agility, CFF freestyle, and rally are all available to him if he so chooses – but whether we ever compete is his call. I’ll keep insisting (gently) that he expand his horizons by taking him to new places and introducing him to new people, but if he never becomes a social butterfly that’s also okay by me. We’ll work on his reactivity issues, so that hopefully someday I can walk him and Layla together (I think they’d both really enjoy that). I haven’t discounted the possibility of anxiety meds for him, and if we hit a wall we’ll discuss the possibility with our vet. For now though, he’s making progress and doing okay.
Welcome home, little Dobby. I think you’re going to like it here.